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I Made It!

February 11, 2012

For Christmas I got the Cooks Illustrated cookbook, Soups, Stews & Chilis, and I’m only just now getting around to using it. Tonight, I made

Italian Vegetable Stew

Italian vegetable stew. And this is a great illustration of the creative experimentation that makes the Cooks Illustrated test kitchens so great (and why you should buy the books yourself).

One of the biggest keys is right at the start: using some of the heartier vegetables like meat. Cut up a medium eggplant — about a pound — into big, one-inch cubes, and do the same with two medium zucchini — again, about a pound. Heat two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the zucchini on all sides, which should take about five to seven minutes. Remove the zucchini to a medium bowl, add another two tablespoons of oil, and brown the eggplant the same way before removing it to the same bowl. Don’t worry at all about bits getting a little burny and stuck to the bottom of the pot; that’s exactly what you want to happen.

While browning the zucchini and eggplant, coarsely chop a red bell pepper and mince a medium onion. Also, open a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes and pour off the liquid into a two-cup measure, which should be the right size. Pull out the tomatoes and squeeze out the liquid inside into the measure. Don’t be timid here, just get your hands dirty and rinse them off after. Then, once most of the liquid is squeezed out, chop up the tomatoes.

Now, once you’re done with browning the zucchini and eggplant, lower the heat to medium and throw in two tablespoons of unsalted butter, which should melt pretty quickly. Add in the tomatoes, onion, and pepper, as well as a tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook this mixture until it dries out and starts to brown, which should be about eleven or twelve minutes. Then stir in four pressed cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of minced fresh oregano leaves and cook about thirty seconds until they become fragrant.

Stir in three cups of vegetable broth, and now stir up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot; the heating liquid will easily release them. Stir in a point of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into half-inch pieces, and the reserved tomato liquid, and bring the whole pot to a boil. Gently stir back in the eggplant and zucchini; cover the pot, leaving about an inch open, and simmer until the vegetables get tender and the stew thickens — around half an hour.

Off the heat, stir in two tablespoons of chopped fresh basil and season with salt and pepper. Grate Pecorino Romano cheese over each serving bowl and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

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